September 19, 2008

Our Year of Living Steakishly: September, The Oakwood Club

The Oakwood Club isn't actually on the Cincinnati Magazine list, but The Girl was set on trying it as a balance to last month's The Pine Club. She had heard that The Oakwood Club was sort of a less expensive version of that other steak house.

And I remembered my camera this time, so we have some photographic evidence this month.

If you need a refresher of the ground rules of our challenge, head back to the first post in the series.

The Oakwood Club is in a really nice, clearly monied area of town, appropriately enough, Oakwood, so it won't be quite as convenient at UDayton for Joey< but that's a price you gotta pay when searching for the best steak house in the Dayton/Cincy uber-market. The area's a bit too posh for my taste with the steakhouse being surrounded by upscale clothiers for a block or so each way. But if you go a couple of blocks south, you do at least get to visit Dorothy Lane Market, which is kind of cool.

Initial view of the Oakwood Club, Saturday, ~6:30pm

As was the case at the Pine Club, the first impression upon opening the second door into the Oakwood Club was one of darkness with the room underlit and each table having an individual light fixture. The darkness of the Oakwood Club wasn't quite as total as that of the Pine Club, however, and our eyes got used to the conditions rather quickly.

The Oakwood Club takes weekend reservations for parties of five or more only, so we ventured Oakwood-way aiming for a 6:30 seating and finding ourselves waiting at the bar for probably half an hour - they expected a forty-five minute wait. The Girl and I were both happy with the bar selections and value, I having a healthy-sized glass of Pinot Noir for $7 and she a manhattan that she described as solidly alcoholic for about $5, both very reasonable for an upscale establishment.

The bar area was fairly typically appointed with the stained glass seen at the top of this post and three televisions lining the walls, all turned to silent news and sports but with the subtitles rolling along. In a decently fancy place like the Oakwood Club, I would have expected no televisions, but the idiot box is pretty ubiquitous in any bar these days, so I guess I shouldn't be too disappointed.

We were seated as a booth in the bar area after closing out our bar tab - which they surprisingly wouldn't transfer to our table - and began to peruse the menu. Remembering the rules and trying to keep everything on a level playing field, we chose the following for our meals:
  • Scallops wrapped in bacon with a red pepper sauce, appetizer
  • The Girl
    Petite surf and turf
    - twin petite filets, rare after she described how she wanted it (pink/red in the center, crisp on the outside)
    - grilled salmon
    Rosemary garlic mashed potatoes
    House salad with peppercorn ranch dressing (on the side, as always)
  • Chemguy
    Petite surf and turf (it was a good idea, what can I say?)
    - petite strip steak, also rare
    - blackened salmon
    Rosemary garlic mashed potatoes
    House salad with sweet and sour vinegrette
Bread selection, before

The appetizer came out fairly quickly, and the waitress took our entree orders while we waited for the scallops. She also brought us a bread basket with two options - herbed white bread with sesame and poppy seeds on top (very, very tasty) and a salt-topped brown bread (which The Girl enjoyed but which I found way too salty). The bread was much fresher than that of the Pine Club, so the Oakwood Club takes the early lead.

Bacon-wrapped scallops appetizer, before

The scallops were outstanding. They were nicely and very lightly breaded on top and bottom with the sides being flavorful, well-cooked bacon, a nice balance to the simple and slightly-sweet scallops. The red pepper sauce, seen in the center of the dish, was far too strong a flavor for the scallops but was tasty on the tomato halves presented as garnish. The lemon, however, was a nice splash on the scallops.

Bacon-wrapped scallops appetizer, after

The salads were next and came out in refrigerator-cold metal bowls, a nice touch to keep the salad fresh. Again, Oakwood beat out Pine as the Pine Club's salads were nothing but chopped iceberg lettuce with a couple of carrot shavings on top. The Oakwood Club offered much more interesting greens with red field greens, red cabbage, a cherry tomato half, and some carrot shavings mixed in. My dressing was a nice combination of tart, red wine vinegar and sugar, and The Girl's creamy dressing was well made. She did ask for the dressing on the side, however, which isn't how it arrived. Luckily the amount of dressing was reasonable though more than she would likely have used had she applied it herself.

Salads - mine on the left, before

Salads - mine on the left, after

We had a few moments before the entrees arrived as the Oakwood Club didn't seem quite so eager to move us along as did the Pine Club. At this point, we were approaching time for the anOSU-USC debacle, and I could see the pre-game over The Girl's shoulder, something that, again, I didn't care for when I'm out for a nice meal on the town.

ChemGuy's petite surf and turf, salmon on the left

The Girl's petite surf and turf, salmon on the right

Both surf and turfs came out on a plate with Bernaise sauce, a lemon quarter, and a simple garnish, and the mashed potatoes came out in their own dish. The full entrees come with two side dishes, but with most of the sides being a potato of some sort and the non-potato options being steamed broccoli/cauliflower or stewed tomatoes, we each went with the single side dish option of the smaller portions. The plates certainly weren't lacking in meet, however, as my steak was a seven- or eight-ounce portion, and The Girl's twin filets were in the range of six or seven ounces combined. Each salmon piece was another four or five ounces, making for a plate with in the range of eleven or thirteen ounces of meet combined for each of us.

The Girl's filets were very well cooked, much more evenly than her filet from the Pine Club, and she was quite satisfied with her choice. Her salmon was also very moist and nicely flavored. She reported being happier with her entree at the Oakwood Club than she had been at the Pine Club last month.

Mine, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. My steak had a solid line of fat along the edge - something you'll see still on the plate in the after photo below, and my steak lacked the rich, deep, crunch crust that the Pine Club had achieved. My steak was nicely rare but seemed to have sacraficed the exterior texture that I enjoy so much to achieve the rareness that I found and appreciated in the center. My salmon - likely because of the blackening choice - was a bit drier than was The Girl's.

The potatoes, however, were excellent and a vast improvement on the sides from The Pine Club. The rosemary and garlic were very well balanced, and the very few scallion slices atop each dish were a nice contrast but didn't provide the sharpness of the white pieces that The Girl found distasteful in the Pine Club's version of the same dish. The potatoes were nicely whipped with nary a lump anywhere within them - something that I often find disappointing but that fit well with the creaminess that had been achieved.

ChemGuy's petite surf and turf, after

The Girl's petite surf and turf, after

The Girl took home one of her filets and the bread to make a lunch the next day - during the wind storm but before the power disappeared. The waitress wrapped up her leftovers and cleared things - including out Bernaise sauces that neither of us found at all necessary for the meals. I'll admit to not knowing exactly what a good or bad Bernaise would be like, so I'll omit commenting on that part of the meal other than to say that I could just as easily have asked not to have it brought out.

The two entrees ($22.95 each) and the appetizer ($8.95) tallied up to just shy of $60 once tax was added in, and we threw in $12 in tip. With the bar tab and tip, we got out of the place for $87 making this a cheaper meal than the Pine Club. That does come into the rankings, and let's turn there now...
  • Appetizers - 8 - nicely cooked, good combination of flavors
  • Steak - 6 - The Girl's words it didn't have that good crust, but it was well cooked - she gave hers an 8, I'll give mine a 4 because, honestly, it wasn't anything I couldn't get at a Sizzler
  • Side dishes - 7 - the salmon counts here and the potatoes were very tasty (though The Girl found them to be a little salty and too smooth for her), the salads were good and had decent variety
  • Atmosphere - 6 - The televisions in the bar area were a negative for me, and the place lacked the old school ring a ding ding that the Pine Club had, but it gets an uptick for the stained glass around the place
  • Cost - 8 - I'm making up a scale here, so I'll define it thusly...
    10 - below $55 with tip
    9 - $55-65
    8 - $65-75
    7 - $75-85
    6 - $85-95
    5 - $95-105
    4 - $105-115
    3 - $115-125
    2 - $125-135
    1 - more than $135
    The meal itself was $72 - not including the bar tab, so that's an 8 on my scale.
  • Service - 5 - nothing special here, probably would've gotten a six, but The Girl did ask for her dressing on the side
  • Total score - 40 (out of 60)
As I said with the Pine Club, we have room for improvement, but The Girl summarized things correctly (ya have to check the stats to be certain, but they bear her conclusion out) when she said she was really happy with the money deal that the Oakwood Club offered. My steak at the Pine Club was worth the extra money because it actually made me pause with the first bite, and that's what I'm looking for in a steak house, but the totality of the Oakwood Club experience was a better one for the both of us.

If you like that nice crust on your steak, talk to the wait staff at the Oakwood Club and explain that to them. See if they can fix yours all right. If so, they'd've earned a couple more points from me.

The bar area, we sat in the third booth from the back of this photo (from the Oakwood Club's website) - my initial photo shows the other dining room to the right, behind the stained glass dividers


calencoriel said...

OOOHHHH!! Pewter dishes for the salad - were the dishes cold when you got them? I'd give bonus points for that...

Grace said...

I love the before/after pics... especially because I can totally see you photographing your meals in a crowded restaurant.

andrew said...

Is it going to be the 13 months of living steakishly now, or did one place get bumped off of the list?

def: axvid - sort of like a slasher film, only worse.

joey said...

holy crap this is long. and i like the relatively-dayton theme lately. thoughts while reading:

- its funny how you seem to know more about the area than me. any connections? or just from years of living in the vicinity? i definitely want to check out Dorthy Lane Market sometime, though I'm sure its too expensive for me at this point

- Yes, Oakwood is freakin nice. The bank I go to is in the heart of it, like three blocks from the Oakwood Club. I would say that's where the professors live, but some of those houses seem like they are even out of their price range.

- I would think solidly alcoholic would probably fit for even a crappy Manhattan.

- Use of bacon should be a disqualification. I could wrap a turd in bacon, it would taste like heaven. see: Rumaki

- Sadly, I gotta agree with you on the TV in the nice restaurant deal. I always get pissed when stinky and I go out and there is a TV within eyeshot, because I suck and am drawn to it like a fly on crap (two doo-doo references in one comment, nice) resulting in an automatic me-getting-yelled at.

- Thanks for the reviews. When I get that big raise (see: hired somewhere) maybe I'll splurge and go to one. At this point though, I may wait and see what the places down in the 'nati have to offer. No world beaters here it seems.

achilles3 said...

this post made me want a surf and turf so freakin bad!

PHSChemGuy said...

Calen...the plates were icebox cold, yes...always a nice touch...

Grace...I told ya I was going to take before and after pics, and I'm not a guy to back down...I've got another review coming later this week...the series is booming...

Andrew...actually, probably more like fourteen because The Girl wants to put her skillz up against the rest of the steakhouses...she's convinced that she can put out a meal that at least 75% as good as the best and at no more than half the cost...

Joey...yeah, I'm a thorough mo-flinker...I have no connections to Dayton other than visiting it from time to time...Dorthy Lane is a little pricey, but it's a fun place with good food...a Manhattan is, admittedly and by necessity, always a little alcoholic...bacon a disqualification? hellz naw...bacon is a godsend and should be in every dish...I can promise you that I've got at least one place coming up that I know tops the Oakwood on Friday...

Lakes, dude...can you get a nice, thick steak in Seoul?